Manu National Park

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::: CuscoWeb.com Cusco Info Manu National Park
The present day preoccupation all over the World for keeping natural areas, free of pollution and with non disturbed wildlife, resulted in the creation in Peru of different National Parks, Reserves and Historic Sanctuaries that involve strictly preserved and protected territories reaching approximately 5'833,648 Has. (58336 Km²; 22524 mile²) representing about 4.54% of the national territory. Inside the Inka region are the Machupicchu National Historic Sanctuary and the Manu National Park that all together involve 1'913,792 Has. (19137 Km²; 7389 mile²) that represent 11% of the regional territory.

The Manu National Park was established on may 29, 1973, by means of Law 0644-73-AG, with the aim of preserving its natural and cultural patrimony for the benefit of present and future generations. That same aim determined the recognition by UNESCO of the Manu Biosphere Reserve that today expands over a territory of 1'881,200 Has. (18812 Km²; 7263 mile²) in the provinces of Paucartambo in Qosqo and Manu in Madre de Dios; from all this protected territory 81.5% belongs to the Core Zone which is strictly preserved in a natural state, 13.5% to the Experimental or Buffer Zone that is set aside for controlled research and tourism, and 5% to the Cultural Zone where there are human settlements.

In order to get the Manu National Park by road, it is necessary to depart from Qosqo and follow the dusty road passing through Huancarane, Paucartambo, Patria, Pilcopata, Atalaya and Salvacion where the administration office of the Park is found, and continue through Burgos and finally as far as Shintuya. In Atalaya or Shintuya there are boats for rent for a day-long journey following the Alto Madre de Dios River downstream, passing through the human settlements of Ithahuania, Cruz de Mayo, Puerto Definitivo and Diamante, until arriving to Boca Manu which is the Manu and Alto Madre de Dios river junction. Over here starts the journey following the Manu River upstream in order to enter into the Park. By air, it is possible to get the airstrip in Boca Manu in small aircrafts from the airports in Qosqo or Puerto Maldonado.

Prior to any visit to the Manu Park, you must get information and authorization given by the Administration of the National Park which headquarters are in Qosqo City at least three months in advance (Park Officials do not offer any visitor-handbook with pertaining recommendations, dangers, restrictions, etc.; it would be great if they wrote something based on their gathered experiences since the Park was opened for tourism from 1980. All that information must be obtained from your travel agent). The entry farther away than limits of the Reserved Zone in the Panagua River is allowed only for authorized researchers, official visitors and scientific tourist groups that apply for entrance permits at least six months prior to the trip. Today there is a tourist lodge in the Cocha Juarez zone; in some other sectors there is nither lodging nor eating substructures for tourists, thence, visitors must take all the necessary elements for their subsistence as well as for their transportation and communication (camping will be necessary). The basic personal equipment is similar to that given in this book in order to carry out the Inka Trail towards Machupicchu; nevertheless, proper information about equipment and required elements will be given by your agent. As in the whole region, the best time in order to visit the Park is during our dry season, between the months of May and September; in the wet season, from October to April there is a bigger amount of rains and higher temperature in the woodlands.

The Manu National Park and the Biosphere Reserve are towards the east of the Eastern Range of the Peruvian Andes, and include totally the basin of the Manu River and partially that of the Alto Madre de Dios River. The landscapes involved are diverse and are found from the Amazonian Plains at 365 mts. (1,200 ft.) of altitude in Boca Manu, as high as 4,020 mts. (13,200 ft.) in the Waskar Mountain, with steep and rough mountains. The altitude difference determines a climate variety from the hot and humid Amazonian Jungle to the cold and dry Andean Highlands. Temperature averages vary according to altitude, thus, in the lower area is about 24° C. (75° F.) and about 4° C. (39° F.) in the high area. Likewise, the annual rainfall in the rain forest is over 4,000 mm. (156 inches) while that in the Andean Highlands it drops to 1,000 mm. (39 inches). The hydrographic system is formed by the rivers that flow down from the Andes; they are torrential by their sources and quiet in the Amazonian Plains; their volume vary considerably between the dry and wet seasons. The Manu River has a reddish color and its meanders with the successive change of river bed formed the several "cochas" or ox-bow lakes, that are the main wild fauna environment.
The scientific interest that awakens the Manu Park is based on its great diversity of flora and fauna species that is one of the biggest in the world and which is kept almost unchanged in millions of years of natural evolution. The major research spot in the Park is the Cocha Cashu Biological Station that nowadays has the best data bank about the South-American tropical ecosystem. That station was built in 1969 by professors and students of the La Molina National Agrarian University after an agreement with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Many are the studies fulfilled in this station that gets annually between 20 to 30 scientists from all over the world; however, the works carried out are very humble compared to all the possibilities offered by the Park.

The altitude variations found inside the Park make possible the existence of an impressive diversity of plant species and forms; it is estimated that at least about 10% of the plant species found in the Manu Park are unknown by science. Over here, it is possible to find basically three ecological levels: Lowland Rain Forest, Montane Rain Forest and High Andes. In the Lowland Rain Forest there is always exuberant vegetation, and gigantic trees that are even 60 mts. high and are 3 mts. of diameter, from which treetops hang lianas and creepers that make the floor relatively dark with deep shade even at midday. Among the different tree species here are: cedar, mahogany, lupuna, tornillo, renaco, cetico, palm trees, etc. In the Montane Rain Forest there are smaller trees with twisted trunks but with even thicker vegetation and an extraordinary species diversity; the fog and rains enable abundant existence of lichens, mosses and ferns, and a great selection of beautiful orchids. The High Andean Zone has also thinly scattered woodlands with some species like the classic "q'euña"; besides dense clumps of dwarf reeds and "ichu" the ever present Andean graminoid. Among the main flora species of the Park are:

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